. Saturday, November 3, 2018 .

While browsing in a bookstore in Tokyo, I came across a planner. I was reluctant to even look in the planner section because I had just purchased one a month before, but once I saw this planner I knew I had to have it.

I made a video going into what I like about this planner now that I've been using it for about a year, and what the upgraded 2019 version is like! Take a look if you're interested, you can find it here on Amazon JP. 


I really like this planner for a few reasons, one of them being that I'm not the most creative type and this gives me some much-needed structure when it comes to my planner pages. The diary consists of a few types of pages that I explain in the video:

- Monthly logs


- Daily logs


- A slogan/theme making section


- A goals section for the next 3 years

- A notes section

I tried to get some shots of the journal but they turned out pretty bad, sorry about that!

I think my one con with this journal/diary is that there isn't much space to actually write diary entries. We are given about 10 pages in the back of the journal to write notes in passing, not really journal our day to day lives. I hope that as time goes on there will be more space allocated to actual journal writing instead of just planning. All in all, I hope you find this video informative! 

. Saturday, October 27, 2018 .

I consider myself an ambitious person.


I also consider myself to be a meticulous planner and fairly organized, but this week really threw me off my game. Seemingly without warning, midterms rolled around and I began my careful balancing act of intense studying, Japanese, two jobs and free time. I still had projects to complete for school and Japanese to study yet I was working 35 hours a week at two different jobs on 5 hours of sleep.


My tipping point came this morning, as I looked in my yellow planner and glanced at some records I had taken this month. It jumped out at me in red pen: 'Sign up for classes on the 24th'. I frantically looked at the day I realize that I had totally forgotten to sign up for the spring 2019 semester because I had been so busy. 


How could I have possibly forgotten?



Glancing at my schedule, I realized that I had to work from 6 to 10 in the morning, then ate breakfast before dashing off to my 2:30 to close shift at the mall, so I must have forgotten in the rush to get to work. 


I just spent the last 20 minutes frantically sending out emails to Professor's asking for permission numbers so I could take their courses. Just like that, my final semester of college that I had meticulously planned was thrown-together haphazardly. With this, my mind was made up. I decided that, though I really enjoy working at the tea shop, I needed to give myself more time to relax. If I'm being frank: the hours and the money just didn't add up and though I love working there I realized that it's taking up a lot of my time that I could be spent resting. Not to mention I have pretty lofty ambitions for the semester as I'm trying to get a 4.0. 


So what's the point of this post?



I'm trying to slow down my approach to life. For me, slowing down by one degree is like slowing down 1000. I'm used to obsessively multitasking and trying to learn new things and climb up the ladder as much as I can, but my body is exhausted from the constant get up and go. I'm missing out on moments that are happening right in front of me, college days are passing by that I will never get back. In my typical Alice fashion, I'm only appreciating something because it's fleeting.


I'm missing out on sleep that I could use to make my day smoother. I'm missing out on time with my friends, and opportunities to make new ones. No one ever explains how hard it is to juggle a social life, work, school, eating right, working out, getting good grades etc. Whenever I feel like I'm accomplishing something there always seems to be something else that I'm failing it. 


The moment I start eating really well and working out I noticed that I'm slacking at studying Japanese. When I start picking up on my Japanese and really making my efforts consistent I notice I'm not getting enough sleep at night which makes me cranky during my shifts at work. When I'm scheduled a lot and work more shifts I realize that I'm missing out on time with my significant other. 


I've realized that I need to stop holding myself to the standard of 'perfect' on all fronts so I've decided to pick and choose what I feel would benefit me most and ultimately refocus my goals. I only get one body in my life, and it should be my priority to take care of it.


I recently started going to Bible studies and reading about different religions. I don't personally identify as Christian or any other specific label because I like to learn from everyone and see what I resonate with and what I don't. I recently picked up a book about Paganism, specifically the Wiccan division of paganism. I'm really enjoying some of the fundamental lessons they have in there that correspond to mindfulness, and I want to work on trying to apply those in my life. 

I wouldn't necessarily call myself Pagan or Wiccan for following these teachings just like I wouldn't necessarily call myself a Christian for going to Bible talks or reading the Bible at night. 

I like being a free spirit, and I'm going to free myself even further by returning to my roots and focusing just a little more on self-care.


photo I took in 2017, I thought it fit well here :)

. Tuesday, October 23, 2018 .



I never knew that October 23rd, 2017 would be the day that changed my life. 

October has consistently been a life-changing month for me over the past 4 years, for reasons that are both good and bad. In 2015, October was the worst month of my life and led me down the darkest path I have ever traveled. Each subsequent October has aided in my healing process bit by bit, and I've spent this year's October counting down to this day to remember how my life completely turned around exactly one year ago. I'm not going to lie and say that this month hasn't been incredibly taxing on my mental health but I have been looking forward to this exact moment where I would publish this post and relive the memories that made me so happy.

On this day last year, I was sitting in a classroom in Japan at Waseda University, arranging my name tag on my desk for a class that I had just started getting used to. In most of my classes seats were pretty flexible so people would sit down next to you at random, but today someone different sat in the seat beside me. 

A person I had only seen in passing decided to take the seat next to me. I had no idea how I had missed her this whole time, but I looked over at her and read her name tag. 絵子, written in chunky black marker. This class required us to have speaking partners, so when the classwork was passed ut, we began to talk. I asked her about her name, and she told me that her English name was Amanda. I was shocked. For those that don't know, my birth name is Amanda and Alice is the nickname that I tend to go by with friends or online. For us to have the same name was too much of a coincidence. 

That was all it took for me to open up to her as a new friend, unknown to me that this moment would be the beginning of so many amazing memories and so much healing in my life.

I'm normally a spontaneous person but I had a gut feeling that told me I should invite her out for lunch right after class. We had just met only an hour before but I wanted to take her to a local cafe I had just begun to frequent. 


This picture pulls me back into that moment. I can almost taste the cup of soup we shared, the pumpkin souffle that I adored so much, and the oil of the honey pizza. She had a class coming up in 45 minutes so this lunch went by quickly, and I think when she was getting up to leave I asked her if we could hang out again tomorrow.  I can't remember the exact moment I asked to see her again, but I'm glad I did. To be frank, I was worried she wouldn't want to see me again or that I was boring so to try and get her to agree, I bluffed that I knew a great cafe that we could go study at together. 


She said yes. 


When we met up the next day she brought all of her journaling supplies with her to our study session. I was totally enamored at how passionate she was about her art, and how meticulously she kept track of her day. We chatted about everything under the sun, from adjusting to Japan and studying Japanese, to our favorite foods and seasons. I knew we had a break coming up in November so I offhandedly mentioned that I really wanted to get out and go somewhere. She agreed that she wanted to venture out of the Tokyo area for our break and so I mentioned that we should visit Nikko together if we had a chance.

At this point, we had known each other for a day. 

I'm not even sure if I had her contact information, other than her Instagram where I posted a photo of our lunch, yet I boldly suggested that we should go on a trip together and she immediately agreed. I've never had someone run with my ideas like that before. I'm usually the person that makes you spontaneous plans and then the other party puts the brakes on it a little bit but Amanda was ready to run with me.


 This is the first photo we ever took together. 


This was the beginning of an incredible friendship, brought together by a class among hundreds at Waseda. Writing this post, I'm lucky enough that I can still remember the feel of her journal in my hands, the inside jokes we made while she was searching for her stickers, the food we ate that night. My memory, usually here today and gone tomorrow, etched these seemingly simple encounters into my brain so that I may never forget, and I'm so grateful for that. These photos are living and breathing, and these moments truly last forever. After studying together at this cafe, we exchanged information. 

She later asked me what I was doing for Halloween, and I honestly had no plans. I was far from home and didn't want to spend a holiday alone in my one-room apartment, so I gladly accepted her invitation to cook food at her house to celebrate. I remember taking the bus near my house with Amanda and her friend Karen and connecting over a shared mutual friend we didn't know we had. 

I remember lightly touching the cool orange bus pole and squinting at the schedule, trying to figure out which stop we should get off. I remember looking out at all the people roaming the night streets in Takadanobaba and passing by shops decorated with Halloween nicknacks.



That night we made a soup and arranged a dinner half made up of side dishes we snagged from a local supermarket. It was a college kid-esque meal, a huge cake from the store along with some soup and scallion pancakes. We sat on Amanda's floor and watched the news on her tiny TV. Our Nikko trip, a few days ago just a tiny idea, was already booked. We had our hostel chosen, bags packed, money laid out and cameras charged for our first adventure together. 

I could say the rest was history, as it's been told in my Nikko blog posts and scattered in almost every post I've written about Japan, but there are so many moments that are untold. We still talk almost every day; she paints while I work on my blog or study. We still have the same dynamic we did sitting together in her room, on some 20-odd say of November, filming a video about nothing at all. We laugh, we cry, we talk for hours until she says 'Oh my god やば! It's 1 am!!'. We are still just as close in our hearts as when we went to Hokkaido together, where we spent a consecutive 264 hours no less than 10 feet away from each other.




What continues to blow my mind is that we were only together for 3 months. Those 3 months have got to be my most documented 3 months in history because I feel like every day was so long! We took hundreds of photos almost every day, then sifted out the cute ones until we had a dozen or so to keep forever. 

One year later I'm reliving those 3 months, in tears at my laptop because I'm so grateful I've found my perfect compliment.


One year from today, October 23, 2018, I will be in China. I will be once again, less than 10 feet away, from a person I care about infinitely. Another October, another adventure I'm jumping into head first. I am not afraid, I am not worried about the mistakes I'll make or what it will be like to be so far from home once again. This time my one-room apartment will be filled with the sound of a brush dipping into a watercolor palette, or the sound of scissors cutting craft paper for a journal page. The floors will have the coats we've discarded in our haste, and we'll enjoy each others company for 264 hours and beyond.

. Wednesday, September 26, 2018 .

I am excited to be making this post about my recent journey with Memrise!! 



Memrise and I have a love-love relationship, I use them pretty exclusively to study Japanese flashcards because I love their gamification system and leaderboard. Anki is another very popular resource for SRS based studying but I personally feel that Memrise suits my learning style a little better. 

I've tried to be as consistent as possible with logging in every day and doing my reviews and I started this personal challenge at the very tail end of June (about June 29th). I decided that I wanted to complete this course before the end of this year, and since I'm coming to a close on this course I decided to make this post now and just detail what I've gained from this experience and what I plan to do moving forward with my new knowledge.

The Course


In my previous post about Memrise sets for August, I mentioned that I was doing a JLPT N3 course. I'm using a course that was designed by the user TL RobWalsh. Here is a link to that course.



I checked out his other courses and he does teach JLPT N2 vocab course that I'm interested in. I might be using his course for my next round of studying because I like the way he's formatted levels. I found that I'm very particular with course format because if it doesn't feel organized I won't feel motivated to continue the course. 

My one gripe with this course is that it has a significant amount of words that I feel were placed in the wrong category. 


For example, when I was doing flashcards for words that I considered to be pretty abstract I came across the word ごめん and さようなら. I will be upfront say that I did ignore a large amount of words because I felt like a lot of words were misplaced from N4 and N5 but then again you have to keep in mind that there's no set list of words from the JLPT that are 'guarenteed' on the test. These study sets are made by arranging words from previous tests, so with that said I wanted to make it known that I did ignore a large amount of words that I knew already.


The course is broken up into 2 main types of level: 



A level that lists the word in its pure kana form, as well as the English meaning


A level that lists the Kanji for that word, with the English meaning.

I really enjoy this breakup because I feel like it gives me double the value in one course. I get the vocabulary word as well as the corresponding Kanji right after. It's a really great method that I chose to adopt into my own courses as well!

The Study Process

I started this course back in June, but my current Memrise streak for this course is 31. Why? I had a streak going for a while, but then we moved my sister into college. It was a pretty stressful day, and when I came home I had to take a nap, which turned into a full night's sleep by mistake. When I woke up in the morning, the damage was done. My Memrise streak was gone!

I was deflated, but I knew I had come too far to give up the course, so I kept pushing and started a new streak. My current longest streak on Memrise is about 54 days, so I hope that as I keep reviewing my words I'll make a new personal record.

I averaged about 135 reviews every day, which I always complete first before I start new material. I set my Memrise to give me reviews in intervals of 50 to make this a faster process, which is a tip I can't recommend enough. After completing all my reviews, I would start new words. I didn't have a methodology for how many new words I learned a day, but I would typically only learn new words for 30 minutes a day. I feel like after 30 minutes I couldn't retain information as well as I could have if I started with a fresh mind, so I would end for the day or continue later if I had free time.

The Test

I don't plan on taking the N3, but I do want to assess my level with a test, so I've decided to take the JCAT to gauge where I'm at with my language learning journey. The last time I took the JCAT was 1 year ago when I was preparing for Waseda, and I received a 202. I wasn't too happy with this score, but it just pushed me over the threshold to make it into level 4 at Waseda. 


My goal for this year is 250+. Anything about 250 would feel like growth for me, and show me I've made a lot of progress. The chart shown above doesn't list the N5, but I think if we were to update it to reflect that then I would have probably placed in the 'studying for N3' level at 202. There's a pretty big jump between 200 and 250 (Level 2 to Level 1??) that I'm hoping to make this time around.

Now that I have some experience with the test and I know how fast paced it is, I hope I'll feel more prepared this time around. I'll be doing a post about my JCAT results, good or bad, once I take the test!

. Monday, September 17, 2018 .

I didn't believe people when they said that college would fly by. 


When I was in freshman and sophomore year I felt like I was going to be in college forever.  Living on campus puts you in this strange bubble where the only thing you know is your campus and your college friends. By the time I became a senior, I became comfortable living in that bubble and I actively looked forward to going back to it at the end of every summer. Once I graduate in May, that's pretty much the end of my life as a kid. Once I step off campus the my start of my life as a working woman will begin its first chapter. 

Since I want to be a teacher I'm going to have summers off (which I'm glad about) and I already work during the school year so I don't think adjusting to a full-time job will be that much different. 

However, I'm going to miss school as a structure. I'm going to miss being evaluated by tests and having to study and take classes that you don't really care about just because you want to sit in a classroom and get credits for something and maybe learn something. It's going to be weird to wake up and do the same exact thing every day for seemingly forever. It sounds kind of depressing... 

There's also the upside that once I get out of school I will be completely free to do whatever I want. I'll be able to work longer hours so I can make more money and start doing things that I want to do whenever I have the free time to do it. I'm excited to see where my future will take me and where I'll be next summer whether I'll be working in China or working here. I used to always think it was a good thing that I could go anywhere and do anything after college but having this whole open mindset and no exact direction is turning into something that's new and frightening. The ability to go anywhere used to be coveted and now that I have it I don't really know what I want to do with it. 

I know two big things that are true. 


Number one: Anywhere Amanda goes I will follow. Vincent once said that a friend of mine had 'found her people' when we started seeing her less and less because she entered a new friend group. At first, I was jealous but now I'm really happy for her. I can finally relate because Amanda is 'my people' (er, I guess 'my person'?). I would follow her to the ends of the Earth if that meant staying together. 

Number two: I want to travel and try things I've never done before. I want to go on trips or live somewhere temporarily or just do something to put myself outside of my comfort zone. I don't want to do it alone though. I'm praying that Amanda or Vincent can come with me so that we can all adventure together. At the end of the day, I don't know if I want to stay in New York or even America at all, I just know I want to go and experience everything I can before I settle down and build my life.

I'm ready to jump into senior year and what is to come, so here's a scrapbook/ collection of my summer and my first few days back at school. I've been really into the app Huji Cam (also called Kuji Cam) these days, so a lot of my photos have that disposable camera feel to them! It's free on the Google Play store :)